Mary Russell wakes up in a strange room with Morocco with a battered body and no name. Not knowing where she is, why there’s blood on her hands, or what the French soldiers at the door want from her, she bolts for the hive-like streets. As Russell struggles to answer the question “who am I?”, Sherlock Holmes finds himself drawn into a colonial civil war by old friends and a distant cousin. But that takes a backseat when he finds out his wife has gone missing.
Garment of Shadows has sat on my bookshelf since it arrived on my doorstep four years ago. If my memory is correct, I put off reading it because I wanted to reread the other eleven Sherlock Holmes/Mary Russell novels first. Since that didn’t happen, this book simply didn’t get read.
Picking up another Mary Russell thriller reminded me exactly what I loved about this series: a powerful, smart woman who can hold her own against the legendary (yet human) Sherlock Holmes. I’m still not a fan of the forty-ish year age difference between the husband and wife, but I loved the romantic connection between the pair. That came across beautifully in this book. It showed a human side of Holmes that’s not always brought into fiction about the detective.
Russell’s amnesia also presented a fantastic plot device. I’ve always found amnesia to be an interesting way to create tension, especially when the person doesn’t remember the people in their former life. There’s a great line when Russell comes face to face with her husband and doesn’t know if he can be trusted:
“I pulled my attention away from the angry man at last, and met the other man’s eyes. They were intriguing eyes, grey and calm and sure and very, very intelligent.
“I hoped to God this man actually was a friend. If he was my enemy, I was in grave trouble.”
That’s probably one of my favorite lines in the entire book. Russell doesn’t even vague feelings that she can trust him (even though they’ve known each other almost a decade). It lets me question whether she ever will get her memory back.
I will say that there were huge sections of Garment of Shadows that were info dumps. The book takes place during the Rif Revolt in Morocco, so there’s obviously a whole lot of historical information that the reader needs to know. And a lot of us aren’t probably too familiar with that conflict. But there could’ve been a better way to get that information across than to have characters explain the whole situation to other characters.
Book #12 in the series (Dreaming Spies) is next up on my to-read list, and book #13 (The Murder of Mary Russell) should be arriving any day. So needless to say, the slight problems aren’t going to keep me from reading the next books.
Garment of Shadows would be great for a reader interested in historical thrillers and Sherlock Holmes.
Garment of Shadows by Laurie R. King is published by Bantam Books and is available in hardcover, paperback, and as an eBook.